Monday, January 20, 2014

The Deux Chevaux: Argentina’s Legacy Car

article from August 31, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

Wherever you go in rural Argentina, you will run into one of France’s classic cars, a timeless Bauhaus design that survived WWII hidden from the German forces, only to emerge in 1948 to be mass-produced by Citroen. It was – and still is – known as the Deux Chevaux, or 2CV, for its two-horsepower engine.

While the original design goes back to 1936, production was not started until after WWII for several reasons, including financial considerations. When first introduced at the Paris Automobile Show October 6, 1948, it was widely ridiculed as an ugly duckling and was panned by the automotive press with the exception of the Swiss Automobile Revue, which praised it for its simplicity and economy. The 2CV really does get 68 mpg, unlike those falsified EPA mileage ratings they now have in the USA.

From day one, the Deux Chevaux was a big hit with the public. Affordable, economical and able to take a family of four on excursions at 65 km per hour in relative comfort, it became the French equivalent of the German Volkswagen. It became so successful that Citroen built factories in distant lands such as Iran, Cambodia, Chile and Argentina to assemble thousands of them.

When we moved to Argentina a few years ago, it was our stated goal to buy one for our transportation needs. My preference was what I jokingly referred to as the “estate wagon,” a sort of two-door delivery version of the sedan. So after we decided to settle down in Patagonia’s El Bolsón, as luck would have it, we ended up renting a house from one of the country’s foremost experts in 2CV restoration and repair, Alberto Herrera. Alberto has a long history with this unique automobile, which takes him all the way back to Buenos Aires, and later Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city in the world, where he worked as a technician, repairing and restoring the constant flow of 2CVs that circulated on the streets of this city that is known for its harsh climate.

After a while, Alberto met a wonderful woman and eventually decided to move his family north to Patagonia. During an exploratory trip, he found his idyllic paradise in the foothills of the Andes, naming the small farm “Chacra Ushuaia,” where they have resided for over 20 years.

He built a modern workshop, where he now takes on all infirm examples of the aging legends, rebuilding engines, transmissions and anything else that may be in need of tender loving care. After his restorative powers have been applied, the vehicles depart Chacra Ushuaia with a smile on their hoods, their owner content in the knowledge that, with proper care and lubrication, their pride will continue to serve them for another 100,000 kilometers.

Right after moving onto his property, I let him know that we wanted to buy a Deux Chevaux to get around Patagonia. But after looking at several examples, I decided instead to go for another French/Argentinean classic, the Renault 16, as it was quite a bit larger and had a trunk, as well. That choice would play an important part in our move north to Mendoza Province, as we were able to load everything we owned into and on top of the Renault, perhaps pushing its limits a little, but it is no worse for the wear.

Alberto is still in Patagonia, keeping the large fleet of aging 2CVs fit for the road, and I am sure he is very much looking forward to the coming spring and summer.

All photos by Jamie Douglas:

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza
Where that Fine Malbec Wine always tastes great!

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.

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